Thursday, April 28, 2022

Artifact April 2022

Seven years ago, I posted Artifact April, a month of theme posts whereby I posted one magical item every day in April across various RPG systems. I was hoping to do that again this year, but it never materialized.

However, some Artifact April is better than none Artifact April, so here's a selection of seven magic items. I'm running a lot of fifth edition D&D these days, so stats (where available) will primarily reference that edition, but I'll provide some notes on other editions because I convert material with abandon. Anything here should be easy to convert to your game system of choice.

(But just to make everything more confusing, Hekanhoda's Bane and Straight Razor are both made for Dungeon Crawl Classics.)


It probably looks something like this.

This sapient blade is a greatsword, appearing as a scimitar sized for a giant (or an efreeti, in this case). It is always warm to the touch. The black iron blade bears glowing runes in the language of fire elementals, while the shagreen wrap on the handle bears binding spells in the language of dragons. The pommel is a small, black iron cage in which a single red ember floats.

That red ember is the efreeti noble Padishah Nurhan Solak, bound in the blade. (He bestowed that title on himself, so he's likely not as powerful as you think he is.) When he speaks — and he often makes demands in imperious whispers — his voice emanates from the ember as it glows and crackles. The ember flares when he is angry.

Trapped in his own sword by a vengeful wizard, the sword now has the statistics of a luck blade. (Interested parties can also find 3.x statistics. The AD&D version of a luck blade gives +1 to saving throws and contains 1d4+1 wishes according to the Encyclopedia Magica.) This particular blade contains 3 wishes, powered by the bound efreeti. When the last wish is cast and the blade loses the Wishes property, the efreeti is released. He almost assuredly returns to the elemental planes and begins plotting his revenge against every previous owner of the blade, whom he has perceived as exploiting and wronging him in some way. (However, he may be gracious to an owner who uses their first wish to release him from the blade, possibly even offering them a free wish. As a lawful evil entity, however, any wishes he offers are of dubious quality.)

In true It Follows fashion, Nurhan probably works his way backwards, starting from the most recent owner until he eventually plots his epic revenge against the wizard who bound him in the first place.

Unlike most sapient swords, Cage cannot initiate an ego battle as the sword is the genie's prison. However, nothing prevents the Padishah from talking, constantly trying to convince the sword's wielder of the benefits of using a wish in this particular situation. Since he wants to escape the sword, he's even less capricious than a typical genie, fulfilling the spirit and letter of any wishes he grants. (At least for the first two wishes. He probably perverts the intent of wish number three as a final "fuck you" to his wielder before he leaves and plots his vengeance.)

If this sounds a bit like recommended Shadowguiding techniques from Wraith: The Oblivion, then you know exactly how to play the Padishah.

In addition to the standard properties of a luck blade, the sword's wielder can speak and understand the language of fire elementals while they carry the sword, and they are unaffected by extreme heat. (Up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. That's about 49 degrees Celsius if you use metric.) The user can use a bonus action to cause the ember in the pommel to brighten, shedding bright light in a ten-foot-radius and dim light in a further ten-foot-radius.

The sword loses these properties if the genie is released, although it keeps the bonus to saving throws (and to-hit and damage for 3e and 5e versions and the Luck property in 5e).

Although it can't initiate conflicts, the sword's statistics might still be useful. It is lawful evil; has an Intelligence of 16, a Wisdom of 15, and a Charisma of 16; can hear and see (with darkvision) out to 120 feet; and can speak, read, and understand Common and Ignan.

If you're using 5e, Cage is a legendary magic item that requires attunement.

Dunce Cap

Nobody makes kids wear these anymore, right?

A standard paper dunce cap, albeit decorated with strange writing on the inside. While worn, it makes it hard to think but also makes the wearer less noticeable as a threat: people tend to ignore the wearer, and enemies target them less often.

For fifth edition, I'd probably give advantage on Charisma (Deception) checks to seem unobtrusive and Dexterity (Stealth) checks to remain hidden. The downside is that this item grants disadvantage on Intelligence checks, attacks, and saving throws.

This is likely a rare item that probably requires attunement. Assuming it requires attunement, it grants disadvantage on Intelligence rolls while it's attuned, but only grants the bonuses while it's being worn. Tricky, eh?

It's paper, so it folds away easily but is also easily damaged. If you'd like, maybe it's made out of something more durable, like leather.

Green Sash

A gift from the Fair Folk always comes with strings attached.

You probably know this one already. Lady Bertilak gifts such a sash to Sir Gawain for his confrontation with the Green Knight.

There aren't any tricks with this one: the wearer gains immunity to slashing damage, but a critical hit from a slashing weapon cuts the sash, dealing full damage and rendering it useless. (If your system of choice doesn't include critical hits, assume it is cut on a natural 20. You might also decide a called shot can sever the sash, but you should make that decision based on your system of choice.)

While there aren't any tricks with the item itself, it is a sash of fairy make. There is a possibility that having the sash itself causes trouble, such as in the case of Sir Gawain.

For the fifth edition crowd, this is another legendary item requiring attunement, although I think it's a more interesting item if it doesn't require attunement.

Hekanhoda's Bane

It looks a little something like this.

If you've read Intrigue at the Court of Chaos, you already know Hekanhoda, Lord of Grotesques. (I believe Hekanhoda also appears as a patron in the DCC Annual.)

Hekanhoda's Bane is a powerful sword of Law dedicated to slaying Hekanhoda. However, this sword has great ambitions, as it has plenty to do before killing the Chaos Lord.

This Lawful +1 long sword has Intelligence 11, and can speak and communicate telepathically. In addition to killing Hekanhoda, the sword also wants its wielder to uphold the Law. It has several banes:

  • Thieves: the wielder gets a +1 bonus to attacks and damage against thieves.
  • Wizards: any wizard successfully struck by the sword is banished. The wizard must make a Will save against the sword's roll of 1d20+10 or else be banished back to its native plane or lair.
  • Earth Elementals: the sword detects any earth elementals within 100 feet, even if they are invisible or concealed. The sword can overcome magical defenses with an effective Will or spell check of +10.
  • Dragons: as with thieves, the wielder gets a +1 bonus to attacks and damage against dragons.
  • Sphinxes: the sword acts as a spotter, making it easier for allies to attack. Allies can fire into melee between wielder and bane at no penalty and with no chance of hitting the wielder, and allies attacking bane with missile fire within 100 feet of the sword receive a +1 attack bonus.

In addition, the sword has several powers. It can detect gold within 1d8 × 10 feet, it can locate object twice a day, it can shed light in a 20-foot-radius at will, it drains 1d4 XP with every blow in addition to its other damage, and the wielder heals 3 points of spellburn each night without rest, or 6 points each night with rest.

The Princess' Ring

Using magic from lost kingdoms is like unearthing uranium.
It could power or destroy a city, and there's only one way to find out.

While the origins of this ring are lost, the story attached to it is that the princess of a lost kingdom owned this ring, which she used to sneak around the castle and even beyond its walls. This is often told as a cautionary tale, as she was executed or exiled for witnessing something she ought not to have seen. Others say that the magic in her ring somehow destroyed the kingdom. Some even say her ghost haunts the ring, providing an unpleasant surprise for anybody who uses the ring's magic.

This item is simply an ornate ring that, when completely covered by the hands, transfers the user to the Ethereal Plane as per the etherealness spell. Depending on the tales, you can either use it three times per day or as often as desired, but it does require the user have both hands free. As such, it probably takes at least an action to use it.

If you're doing the full 5e thing, this probably works as a very rare item, although it likely doesn't require attunement. Watch out for thieves! (You might want to make it legendary if the wearer can use it at-will. Then again, you might feel that being able to do nothing other than hold the ring is balancing enough. It's ultimately your choice; I'm a blog post, not a cop.)

Straight Razor

It looks similarly impractical.

Diametrically opposed to the monument of Law that is Hekanhoda's BaneStraight Razor would see civilization reduced to rubble and ash. This Chaotic +1 long sword has Intelligence 10 but only communicates through simple urges. It seeks to build a monument to Chaos from the rubble of civilization and to punish interlopers and those who interfere.

The sword hates water elementals, sending its wielder into a berserker fury against them. When facing water elementals in combat, the wielder must succeed on an Ego check against the sword or else gain +4 Strength and Stamina for 2d6 rounds, and then become exhausted at -4 Strength and Stamina for 1d6 turns thereafter.

On the other hand, Straight Razor grants its wielder the ability to speak and understand thieves' cant, and it can shoot out a tongue of flame once per day. The flame jet is shaped like a cone, 40’ long and 10’ wide at end. All within take 2d6 fire damage and may catch on fire. They can avoid this damage with a Reflex save against the sword's roll of 1d10+10.

The Widow's Ring

Just what I always wanted: a ring that hates me!

Old tales speak of the maedar, the male versions of medusae. One particular tale speaks of a maedar who found a mate very late in life, but was as devoted to her as any other maedar is to his wife. In fact, he was so devoted to her that he ensured he would never leave her.

When he felt his life coming to an end, he undertook the ritual that maedars sometimes undertake to become a glyptar, a maedar's consciousness remaining in stone. Maedars are said to go mad if they become trapped in gemstones, but this particular maedar willingly projected his consciousness into amethyst so that he could remain with his wife until the end of her days, and could continue to guide and protect future generations of their family. Before death, he made arrangements to have the amethyst fitted into a ring, delivered to his wife, so that they could spend eternity together.

And so the glyptar spent generations with his descendants, at least until some group of adventurers murdered them and took the ring.

As you might imagine, the glyptar is very displeased with this state of affairs.

Any medusa can use the widow's ring to gain a burrow speed equal to her walking speed, even allowing her to move through solid stone. Three times per day, she can turn stone to flesh, either ending the petrified condition on a creature or turning an area of stone as large as a 10' cube into meat. (If you're using an older edition with a proper stone to flesh spell, just use that instead. If you want the classic glyptar experience, old-school maedars can technically use their stone to flesh power every 30 minutes. In AD&D, the spell mentions turning stone golems into flesh golems, but since 5e stone golems cannot be altered in such a way, we'll skip that particular detail.)

Humanoids and other folk might be able to use the ring's powers as discussed above, but they have to convince it of their intentions first. The original adventurers who stole the ring probably won't get it to cooperate, nor will any adventurer who kills a medusa and lets the ring know about it. (Even hearing a rumor that the wearer killed a medusa might be enough to prevent the widow's ring from cooperating.) In fact, such users find the ring is basically cursed: the glyptar will attempt to take control, leading the wearer into suicidal situations. However, wearers who seem sympathetic to medusae and are willing to help local medusa populations will likely receive the ring's aid. (Although it might just ask for them to deliver it to a proper medusa, unless it thinks it can better aid medusakind by staying with the current wearer.)

The widow's ring is lawful evil; has an Intelligence of 12, a Wisdom of 13, and a Charisma of 15; can hear and see (with darkvision) out to 120 feet; and can speak, read, and understand Common. (If you're using an old-school system, the ring can also speak the languages of medusae. It also has the equivalent of a Labyrinth Lord psyche around 15 or so, to give you an idea of what sort of Ego rating you should give it in whatever system you're using.)

For 5e, this ring is probably legendary and definitely requires attunement.

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